Charles Lamb.

Charles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 online

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There is one face of Farley, one
face of Knight, one face (but what a
one it is!) of Liston; but Munden
has none that you can properly pin
down, and call his. When you think
he has exhausted his battery of looks,
in imaccountable warfare with your
gravity, suddenly he sprouts out an en-
tirely new set of features, like Hydra.
He is not one, but legion. Not so
much a comedian, as a company. If
his name could be multiplied like his
countenance, it might fill a play-bill.
He, and he alone, literally makes
faces: applied to any other person,
the phrase is a mere figure, denoting
certain modifications of the human
countenance. 'Out of some invisible


wardrobe he dips for faces, as hig
friend Suett used for wigs, and fetches
them out as easily. We should not ,*,^
be surprised to see him some day put
out the heacf of a river horse; or ML
come forth a pewit, or lapwing, some •»
feathered metamorphosis.

AVe have seen this gifted actor in
Sir Christopher Curry — in Old Dorn-
ton — diffiise a glow of sentiment
which has made the pulse of a crowd-
ed theatre beat like that of one man ;
"when he has come in aid of the pulpit,
dohig good to the moral heart of a
people. We have seen some faint
approaches to this sort of excellence
in other players. But in what has
been truly denomhiated the '* sub-
lime of farce," Munden stands out as
single and unaccompanied as Ho-
garth. Hogarth, strange to tell, had
no followers. The school of Munden
began, and must end, with himself.

Can any man u'onder, like him?
can any man sec ghosts, like him ? or
Jight iviih his own shadow — sessa — as
he does in that strangely-neglected
thing, the Cobler of Preston — where
his alternations from the Cobler to
the Magnifico, and from the Magnifi-
co to the Cobler, keep the brain of
the spectator in as wild a ferment, as if
some Arabian Night were being acted
before him, or as if Thalaba were
no tale ! Who like him can throw,
or ever attempted to throw, a super-
natural interest over the commonest
daily-life objects ? A table, or a
joint stool, in his conception, rises
into a dignity equivalent to Cassio-
peia's chair. It is invested with con-
stellatory importance. You could
not speak of it with more deference,
if it were mounted into the firma-
ment. A beggar in the hands of
Michael Angelo, says Fuseli, rose
the Patriarch of Poverty. So the
gusto of Munden antiquates and en-
nobles what it touches. His pots and
his ladles are as grand and primal as
the seething-pots and hooks seen in
old prophetic vision. A tub of but^r
ter, contemplated by him, amounts
to a Platonic idea. He understands
a leg of mutton in its quiddity. He
stands wondering, amicl the common-
place materials of life, like primceval
man, with the sun and stars about
him. Elia.


In comparing modern with ancient
maruiers, we arc pleased to com-
pliment ourselves upon the point of
gallantry, as upon a thini^ altogether
miknown to the old classic ages.
This has been defmcd to consist in
a certain obsequiousness, or deferen-
tial respect, paid to females, as fe-

I shall believe that this principle
actuates our conduct, when I can
forget, that in the nineteenth century
of the era, from which we date our
civility, we are but just beginning to
leave off the very frequent practice
of Avhipping females in public, hi
common with the coarsest male of-

I shall believe it to be influential,
when I can shut my eyes to the fact,
that in England women are still oc-
casionally — hanged.

I shall believe in it, when actresses
are no longer subject to be hissed off
a stage by gentlemen.

I shall believe in it, when Dori-
mant hands a fish-wife across the
keimel ; or assists the apple-woman
to pick up her wandering fruit, which
some imlucky dray has just dissi-

Vol.. VI.

I shall believe in it, when the Do-
rimants in humbler life, who would
be thought in their way notable
adepts i!i this refinement, shall act
upon it in places where they are not
known, or think themselves not ob-
served — when I shall see the tra-
veller for some rich tradesman part
with his admired box coat, to spread
it over the defenceless shoulders of
the poor woman, who is passing to
her parish on the roof of the same
stage-coach with him, drenched in
the rain — when I shall no longer see
a woman standing up in the pit of a
London theatre, till she is sick and
faint with the exertion, with men
about her, seated at their ease, and
jeering at her distress; till one, that
seems to have more manners or con-
science than the rest, significantly
declares '' she should be welcome to
his seat, if she were a little younger
and handsomer." Place this dapper
warehouseman, or that rider, in a
circle of their own female acquaint-
ance, and you shall confess you have
not seen a politer-bred man in Loth-

Lastly, I shall begin to believe that
there is some such principle, influ-


Modern Galtantry.


encbig our conduct, when more than
one half of the drudg-ery and coarse
servitude of the world shall cease to
t^c performed by women.
,. J, Lentil that day comes, I shall never
believe this boasted point to be any
thing more than a conventional fic-
tion ; a pageant got up between the
sexes, in a certain rank, and at a
certain time of life, in which both
find their account equally.

1 shall be even disposed to rank it
among the salutary fictions of life,
when in polite circles I shall see the
same attentions paid to age as to
youth, to homely features as to
handsome, to coarse complexions as
to clear — to the woman, as she is a
womai>, not as she is a beauty, a for-
tune, or a title.

I shall believe it to be something
more than a name, when a well-
dressed gentleman in a well-dressed
company can advert to the topic of
female old age without exciting, and
intending to excite a sneer : — when
the phrases " antiquated virginity,"
and such a one has " overstaid her
market," pronounced in good com-
pany, shall raise immediate oiFence
in man, or woman, that shall hear
them spoken.

Joseph Paice, of Bread-street-hill,
merchant, and one of the Directors
of the South Sea company — the same
to whom Edwards, the Shakspeare
commentator, has addressed a fine
sonnet — was the only pattern of con-
sistent gallantry I have met with.
He took me under his shelter at an
early age, and bestowed some pains
upon me. I owe to his precepts and
example whatever there is of the
man of business (and that is not
much) in my composition. It was
not his fault that I did not profit
more. Though bred a Presbyterian,
and brought up a merchant,' he was
the finest gentleman of his time. He
had not one system of attention to
females in the drawing room, and
another in the shop, or at the stall. I
do not mean that he made no dis-
tinction. But he never lost sight of
sex, or overlooked it in the casualties
of a disadvantageous situation. I
have seen him s'tand bcii-e-headed —
smile, ir you please — to a poor ser-
vant girl, while she has been in-
quirhig of him the way to some
street — hi such a posture of unforced
civility, as neither to embarrass her

in the acceptance, nor himself in the
oflTer, of it. He was no dangler, in
the common acceptation of the word,
after women : but he reverenced and
upheld, in every form in which it
came before him, ivomanhood. I have
seen him — nay,, smile not — tenderly
escorting a market-woman, whom he
had encountered in a shower, exalt-
ing his umbrella over her poor basket
of fruit, that it might receive no da-
mage, with as much carefidness as if
she had been a Countess. To the
reverend form of Female Eld he
would yield the wall (though it were
to an ancient beggar-woman) with
more ceremony than we can afibrd
to show our grandams. He was the
Preux Chevalier of A^e ; the Sir
Calidore, or Sir Tristan, to those
who have no Calidores or Tristans to
defend them. The roses, that had
long faded thence, still bloomed for
him in those withered and yellow

He was never married, but in his
youth he paid his addresses to the
beautiful Susan Winstanley — old
V/instar- ley's daughter of Clapton —
who dying in the early days of their
courtship, confirmed in him the re-
solution of perpetual bachelorship.
It was during their short courtship,
he told me, that he had been one day
treating his mistress with a profusion
of civil speeches — the common gal-
lantries — to which kind of thing she
had hitherto maniliested no repug-
nance — but in this instance with
no effect. He could not obtain
from her a decent acknowledgment in
return. She rather seemed to resent
his compliments. He could not set
it down to caprice, for the lady had
always shown herself above that lit-
tleness. When he ventured on the
following day, finding her a little
better humoured, to expostulate with
her on her coldness of yesterday, she
confessed, with her usual frankness,
that she had no sort of dislike to his
attentions ; that she could even en-
dure some high-flown compliments;
that a young woman placed in her
situation had a right to expect all
sort of civil things said to her ; that
she hoped, she could digest a dose
of adulation, short of insincerity,
with as little injury to her humility
as most young women : but that —
a little before he had commenced his
corapllments — she had overheard him


Song: — Awake, my Love,


by accident, in rather rough lan-
guage, rating a young woman, who
had not brought home his cravats
quite to the appointed time, and she
thought to herself, " As I am Miss
Susan Winstanley, and a young lady
— a reputed beauty, and known to be
a fortune, — I can have my choice of the
finest speeches from the mouth of this
very fine gentleman who is court-
ing me— but if I had been poor Mary
Such-a-one, {naming- the milliner) —
and had failed of brhiging home
the cravats to the appointed hour —
though perhaps I had sat up half the
night to forward them — what sort of
compliments should I have received
then ? — And my woman's pride came
to my assistance ; and I thought,
that if it were only to do ?nc honour,
a female, like myself, might have
received handsomer usage: and I
was determined not to accept any
fine speeches, to the compromise of
that sex, the belonging to which was
after all my strongest claim and title
to them."

I tliink the lady discovered both
generosity, and a just way of think-
ing, in this rebuke which she gave
her lover ; and I have sometimes
imagined, that the uncommon strain
of courtesy, which through life regu-
lated the actions and behaviour of
my friend towards all of womankind
indiscriminately, owed its happy ori-
gin to this seasonable lesson from the
lips of his lamented mistress.

I wish the whole female world
woidd entertain the same notion of
these things, that Miss Winstanley
showed. Then we should see some-
thing of the spirit of consistent gal-
lantry ; and no longer witness the
anomaly of the same man — a pattern
of true politeness to a wife — of cold
contempt, or rudeness, to a sister—
the idolater of his female mistress—
the disparager and despiser of his no
less female aunt, w inifortunate — still
female — maiden cousin. Just so much
respect as a woman derogates from
her own sex, in whatever condition
placed— her handmaid, or dependant
— she deserves to have diminished
from herself on that score ; and pro-
bably will feel the dimimition, when
youth, and beauty, and advantages,
not inseparable from sex, shall lose
of their attraction. What a woman
should demand of a man in courtship,
or after it, is first — respect for her
as she is a woman ; — and next to
that — to be respected by him above
all other women. But let her stand
upon her female character, as upon a
foundation ; and let the attentions,
incident to individual preference, be
so many pretty additaments, and or-
naments — as many, and as fanciful,
as you please — to that main struc-
ture. Let her first lesson be— with
sweet Susan Winstanley — to reverence
her sex,



The Gentle Giantess,




The widow Blacket, of Oxford, is
the largest female I ever had the plea-
sure of beholding. There may be her
parallel upon the earth, but surely I
neversawit. I takehertobelineally de-
scended from the maid's aunt of Brain-
ford, who caused Master Ford such un-
easiness. She hath Atlantean shoul-
ders ; and, as she stoopeth in her gait
— with as few offences to answer for in
her own particular as any of Eve's
daughters — her back seems broad
enough to bear the blame of all the
peccadillos that have been committed
since Adam. She girdeth her waist —
or what she is pleased to esteem as
such — nearly up to her shoulders,
from beneath which, that huge dor-
sal expanse, in mountainous declivi-
ty, emergeth. Respect for her alone
preventeth the idle boys, who follow
her about in shoals, whenever she
cometh abroad, from getting up and
riding.— But her presence infallibly
commands a reverence. She is indeed,
as the Americans would express it,
something awful. Her person is a
burthen to herself, no less than to
the ground which i)ears her. To her
mighty bone, she hath a pinguitude
withal, which makes the depth of
winter to her the most desirable sea-
son. Her distress in the warmer sol-
stice is pitiable. During the months
of July and August, she usually rent-
eth a cool cellar, where ices are kept,
whereinto she descendeth when Si-
rius rageth. She dates from a hot
Thursday — some twenty-five years
ago. Her apartment in summer is
pervious to the four winds. Two
doors, in north and south direction,
and two windows, fronting the rising
and the setting sun, never closed,
from every cardinal point, catch the
contributory breezes. She loves to
enjoy Avhat she calls a quadruple
draught. That must be a shrewd
zephyr, that can escape her. I owe
a painful face-ach, which oppresses
me at this moment, to a cold caught,
sitting by her, one day in last July,
at this receipt of coolness. Her fan
in ordinary resembleth a banner
spread, which she keepeth continu-
ally on the alert to detect the least
breeze. She possesseth an active and
gadding mind, totally incommensu-

rate with her person. No one de-
lighteth more than herself in coun-
try exercises and pastimes. I have
passed many an agreeable holiday
with her in her favourite park at
Woodstock. She performs her part
in these delightful ambulatory excur-
sions by the aid of a portable garden
chair. She setteth out with you at
a fair foot gallop, which she keepeth
up till you are both well breathed,
and then she reposeth for a few se-
conds. Then she is up again, for a
hundred paces or so, and again rest-
eth— her movement, on these spright-
ly occasions, being something be-
tween walking and flying. Her great
weight seemeth to propel her for-
ward, ostrich-fashion. In this kind
of relieved marching I have traversed
with her many scores of acres on
those well-wooded and well-watered
domains. Her deliglit at Oxford is
in the public walks and gardens,
where, when the weather is not too
oppressive, she passeth much of her
valuable time. There is a bench at
MaudHn, or rather, situated between
the frontiers of that and ******'s.

college some litigation latterly,

about repairs, has vested the pro-
perty of it finally in «*****'s — where
at the hour of noon she is ordinarily
to be found sitting — so she calls it by
courtesy — but in fact, pressing and
breaking of it down with her enor-
mous settlement ; as both those
Foundations, who, however, are
good-natured enougli to wink at it,
have found, I believe, to their cost.
Here she taketh the fresh air, prin-
cipally at vacation times, when the
walks are freest from interruption of
the younger fry of students. Here
she passeth her idle hours, not idly,
but generally accompanied with a
book — blest if she can but intercept
some resident Fellow (as usually
there are some of that brood left be-
hind at these periods); or stray Mas-
ter of Arts (to most of whom she is
better known than their dinner bell) ;
with whom she may confer upon any
curious topic of literature. I have
seen these shy gownsmen, who truly
set but a very slight value upon fe-
male conversation, cast a hawk's eye
upon her from the length of Maud-


Of CrueHy to Animals, and *' Mi'* Martins Act.


lin grove, and warily glide off into
another walk— true monks as they
are, and ungently neglecting the de-
licacies of her polished converse, for
their own perverse and iincommuni-
. eating solitariness I Within doors
her princi|>al diversion is music, vo-
cal and instrumental, in both Avhich
she is no mean professor. Her voice
is wonderfully fine; but till 1 got
used to it, I confess it staggered me.
It is for all the world like that of a
piping bultinch, while from her size
and stature you would expect notes
to drown the deep organ. The shake,
which most fine singers reserve for
the close or cadence, by some un-
accountable flexibility, or tremu-
Jousness of pipe, she carrieth quite
through the composition; so that
her time, to a common air or ballad,
Jkeeps double motion, like the earth
' — running the primary circuit of the
tune, and still revolving upon its
«wn axis. The effect, as 1 said be-
fore, when you are used to it, is as
agreeable as it is altogetlier new and
fiurprising. The spacious apartment
of hxcr outward frame lodgeth a soul
in all respects disproportionate. Of
more than mortal make, she evinceth

withal a trembling sensibility, a
yielding infirmity of purpose, a quick
susceptibility to reproach, and all
the train of diffident and blushing
virtues, which for their habitation
usually seek out a feeble frame, an
attenuated and meagre constitution.
\rith more than man's bulk, her hu-
mours and occupations are eminently
feminine. She sighs — being six foot
high. She languisheth — being two
feet wide. She worketh slender sprigs
upon the delicate muslin — her fingers
being capable of moulding a Colos-
sus. She sippeth her wine out of
her glass daintily — her capacity be-
ing that of a tini of Heidelburg.
She goeth mincingly with those feet
of hers — whose solidity need not fear
the black ox's pressure. Softest,
and largest of thy sex, adieu ! by
what parting attribute may I salute
thee — last and best of the Titanesses
— Ogress, fed with milk instead of
blood — not least, or least handsome,
among Oxford's stately structures — >
Oxford, who, in its deadest time of
vacation, can never properly be said
to be empty, having thee to fill it.




Eotttion iEaga^me.

JANUARY, 1823.


Thk Old Year being- dead, and the
New Year coming of" age, which he
does, by Calendar Law, as soon as
the breath is ont of the old gentle-
man's body, nothing would serve the
young spark but he must give a
dinner upon the occasion, to which
all the Days in the year were invited.
The Festivah, whom he deputed as
his Stewards, were mightily taken
with the notion. They had been en-
gaged time out of mind, they said,
in providing mirth and good cheer
for mortals below ; and it was time
they should have a taste of their own
bounty. It was stiffly debated among
them, whether the Fasts should be
admitted. Some said, the appear-
ance of such lean, starved guests,
with their mortified faces, would
pervert the ends of the meeting. But
the objection was overruled hy Christ-
mas Day, who had a design upon
Ash Wednesday (as you shall hear),
and a mighty desire to see how the
old Domine would behave himself in
his cups. Only the Vigils were re-
quested to come Vvdth their lanterns,
to light the gentlefolks home at

All the Days came to their day.
Covers were provided for three hini-
dred and sixty-five guests at the prin-
cipal table ; with an occasional knife
and fork at the side-board for the
Twenty- Al nth of Februa ry.

I should have told you, that cards
of invitation had been issued. The
carriers were the Jioiu's ; twelve lit-

Jan. 1823.

tie, merry, whirligig foot-pages, as
you should desire to see, that went
all round, and found out the persons
invited w ell enough, with the excep-
tion of Easter Day, Shrove Tuesday j
and a few such Moveables, who had
lately shifted their quarters.

Well, they all met at last, foul
Days, fine Days, all sorts of Days,
and a rare din they made of it.
There was nothing but, Hail ! fellow
Day, well met brother Day — sis-
ter Day, — only Lady Day kept a lit-
tle on the aloof, and seemed some-
what scornful. Yet some said, Twelfth
Day cut her out and out, for she
came in a tiffany suit, white and gold,
like a Queen on a frost-cake, all
royal, glittering, and Epiphanous.
The rest came, some in green, some
in white — but old Lent and hisfavtily
were not yet out of mourning. Rainy
Days came in, drii)ping; and sun-
shiny Days helped them to change
their stockings. Wedding Day was
there in his marriage finery, a little
tlie worse for wear ; Pay Day came
late, as he always does ; and Dooms-'
day sent word — he might be ex-

April Fool (as my young lord's
jester) took upon himself to marshal
the guests, and wild work he made
with it. It would have posed old
Erra Pater to have found out any
given Day in the year, to erect a
scheme upon— good Days, bad Days,
were so shuffled together, to the con-
founding of all sober horoscopy.


Rejoicings upon the Neio Year*s coming of Age*


He had stuck the Twenty First of lous old Whig gentlewoman), and

June next to the Twenty Second of
December J and the former looked like
a Maypole siding a marrow-bone.
Ash Wednesday got wedged in (as
was concerted) betwixt Christmas
and Lord Mayors Days. Lord ! how
he laid about him ! Nothing but
barons of beef and turkeys would go
down with him — to the great greasing
and detriment of his new sackcloth
bib and tucker. And still Christmas
Day was at his elbow^ plying him
with the wassaU-bowl, till he roared,
and hiccup'd, and protested there
was no faith in dried ling, but com-
inended it to the devil for a sour,
windy, acrimonious, censorious, hy-
po-crit-crit-critical mess, and no dish
for a gentleman. Then he dipt his
fist into the middle of the great cus-
tard that stood before his left-hand
neighbour^ and daubed his hungry
beard all over with it, till you would
have taken him for the Last Day in
December, it so hung in icicles.

At another part of the table, Shrove
Tuesday was helping the Second of
September to some cock broth, —
which courtesy the latter returned
with the delicate thigh of a hen
pheasant — so there was no love lost
for that matter. The Last of Lent
was spunging upon Shrovetide's pan-
cakes ; which April Fool perceiving,
told him he did well, for pancakes
were proper to a good fry-day.

In another part, a' hubbub arose
about the Thirtieth of January, who,
it seems, being a sour puritanic cha-
racter, that thought nobody's meat
good or sanctified enough for him,
had smuggled into the room a calves'
head, which he had had cooked at
home for that piu-pose, thinking to
feast thereon incontinently; but as it
lay in the dish, March Many weathers,
who is a very fine lady, and subject
to the megrims, suddenly screamed
out there was a '^ human head in the
platter," and raved about Herodias'
daughter to that degree, that the ob-
noxious viiuid v/as obliged to be re-
moved ; nor did she recover her 'sto-
mach till she had gulped down a
Restorative, ccnfected of Oak Apple,
U'hich the merry Twenty Ninth of
May always carries about with him
for that purpose.

The King's health being called for
after this, a notable dispute arose be-
tween the Twelfth of August (a zea-

the Twenty Third of April (a new-
fangled lady of the Tory stamp), as
to which of them should have the
honour to propose it. August grew
hot upon the matter, affirming time
out of mind the prescriptive right to
have lain with her, till her rival had
basely supplanted her ; whom she re-
presented as little better than a kept
mistress, who went about in fine
clothes, while she (the legitimate
Birthday) had scarcely a rag, &c.

April Fool, being made mediator,
confirmed the right in the strongest
form of words to the appellant, but
decided for peace' sake that the exer-

Online LibraryCharles LambCharles Lamb's essays : as first published in the London magazine : 1820-1825 → online text (page 18 of 33)